Claude Kellum

This article provides the best background I have seen about Claude Kellum. He was the riding mechanic who was killed at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the Charlie Merz (driver of the National Motor Vehicle Company racer Kellum rode in) accident of the final day of racing during the historic first auto meet at the track. It was originally published in the August 22, 1909 Indianapolis Star. These races were conducted on Saturday, August 21, 1909.
Kellum, like many of the drivers and mechanics of the day, lived in Indianapolis. His home, described as "a neat little cottage" was at 2332 Bellafontaine Street where he lived with his wife and two young sons, Carl and Paul, ages 10 and 11. Kellum was an employee of National, where he reportedly had worked for four years.
Kellum's mother, who owned a millinery shop on Indiana Avenue, had a premonition that her son would lose his life at the races. She begged her son not to race the evening before he died.
She is quoted saying, "Claude, if you will only stay away from those races tomorrow I will give you anything I have." Claude responded with, "Now mother, don't you worry because I'll get back all right."
Kellum was a young man in his twenties although the quality of the article blotches out the figure reported at the time. Interestingly he was reported to have had an interest in politics and was active in local labor organizations. Apparently, he was the Socialist Party's nominee for a State legislative seat in the previous Indiana elections.
For Kellum, it was an unfortunate twist of fate that he was even in Merz' car. He had started the race as teammate Johnny Aitken's riding mechanic but was sidelined when that National suffered mechanical failure.
Herbert Lyne started with Merz as riding mechanic. During the race, their National failed on the backstretch, apparently in need of a battery. Lyne ran the distance across the track in the hot sun and apparently was not conditioned for such exertion as he collapsed. Eager to return to the fray, Kellum jumped at the chance to sprint back to Merz with a replacement battery or whatever was required. It was a fateful move.
Kellum was one of two riding mechanics to lose their lives during the race meet. On Thursday, August 19 Knox mechanic Harry Holcomb lost his life. He was the riding mechanic for driver William Bourque. Along with spectators James West and Homer Jolliff the death tally reached five for the three-day meet.

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